JULY 20, 1962
HYDE PARK—Judging from the vote on medical care, it would seem that our present Congress is totally uninfluenced by anything which might mean an awareness of the nation's future needs. They will pass things such as military aid and foreign aid because they can see immediate consequences if they don't pass these bills. But apparently they are wholly incapable of thinking far enough ahead to see that Medicare for the aged will really benefit young people and the economy generally.
Someone asked me the other day if I did not agree that the men running for Congress and state legislatures today were not, on the whole, as well educated as those who came to these bodies in the past. This is an indictment of education given in our public schools and, to some extent, in our parochial schools. Perhaps what has been happening is that we do not involve our young people early enough in the questions of government. Hence, when they run for office they find themselves faced with questions to which they have given little or no attention.
Over at the White House, President Kennedy is faced with all kinds of difficult decisions as to what steps he will take. He is told that we may well have a recession and that he must do all he possibly can to prevent it. On the other hand, that means asking for an adequate tax cut now; but any assurance in the next year that the Senate and the House will actually pass an adequate tax reform bill that will close up the loopholes and reduce the inequities is completely non-existent. Representative Mills and Senator Byrd may take at least a year to come to any kind of an agreement on tax reform. Certainly, they are in no hurry. No one is going to blame them for anything that happens. The President will take the blame. They will meanwhile sit by smiling, with the belief that they are protecting our financial interests.
There are times when I really wonder why any intelligent young man would want to go into politics.
On my way here from New York on Tuesday afternoon I stopped at the 52 Association outdoor recreation center in Ossining and had a chance to see what acquiring this land by the association and turning it into a playground for veterans groups really meant. Some of the patients here come from the various hospitals. Others are family groups which include men who are no longer in hospitals but live within a reachable distance of Ossining.
The 52 Association has a wonderful piece of ground, a nice indoor dining room and lounges in case of rain. But the center's greatest appeal is the almost universal opportunity for everybody to have a good time outdoors. There is a lovely lake and a sandy beach, with a roped off area for the children and two lifeguards on duty. The veterans may dive from their wheelchairs into the water, but there are also ramps if they want to slide in. There are any number of ready volunteers happy to help wherever they are needed, and the executive director and the recreation director do a superlative job.
There are special playgrounds for the children and all kinds of games for the older people which can be played in chairs, including archery. When they discovered that my driver was interested in archery, they asked him to come down and give them an exhibition.
As you go through the buildings and walk around outside, you see how carefully everything has been planned. At every entry there are ramps for the wheelchairs. Telephones are at a convenient height for those sitting in wheelchairs. Similarly, washbasins and benches are conveniently placed, and there are lockers for artificial limbs when the veterans go swimming. The game areas are made on special dimensions; the bocce court, for example, is twice the normal width. This is an easy Italian game that the wheelchair patients enjoy particularly. There are also no paths or bridges across streams that are not wide enough for a wheelchair.
The philosophy behind anything of this kind is to make it possible for the veterans to look after themselves. Thus, the grills for preparing meals are so arranged that the veterans, if they so wished, could completely look after themselves. Among the groups coming here are blinded veterans and patients of the V.A. hospital in the Bronx and other nearby hospitals. In addition, a large number of individual disabled veterans who are now living with their families at home have come to look upon this as their club, and they come day after day. This also means that children who might not otherwise get out to the country at all have a chance to get some fresh air, learn to swim under instructors and have a general sense of freedom and well being.
I left with a great sense of gratitude to the 52 Association and to the women's auxiliary. They do a magnificent job.